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Things To Expect In Jail: Some Notes For Peaceful Protesters

As some of our good friends marinate in the DC Jail environment this weekend, for peacefully being present and speaking at the Tar Sands protest, I thought it might be appropriate to touch on a few considerations for folks who have never been in such a position.

First of all, I visited Prison Talk, a supportive forum for friends and family, and typed in “DC Jail,” but found so many threads (more than five hundred) that I finally decided to present the d-o-c-dot-gov site, and I found it interesting, as an aside, that the jail is partially privately owned:

The DOC DC Jail site.

Treatment and conditions vary, of course, but in general, please consider:

-There will be a delay before you can make a phone call, and during that first call, arrange for the person on the other end to obtain a jail telephone calling card. Alternatively, outgoing calls are collect. There are no incoming calls, and, all calls are recorded. Also, they really do listen to these recordings.

-If you have pets (as Jane does, I see), make arrangements for their care prior to attending a peaceful protest, just in case.

-Do not carry a lot of cash. Many jails simply take all of the cash you have on you, and keep it.

-If you are on medication or if you have a medical condition, have your medications and the schedules with you, and know that many jails simply deny all medication outright, unless you lapse into some sort of diabetic coma.

-Do not expect to be read your rights or know your charges or be provided with an attorney: Those days are gone, except in the movies.

-Tell someone else who you wish to be notified, if you are arrested and taken to jail.

-It might be good to have a meeting place, a group of friends, or some sort of gathering schedule, to check on each other during a protest. If someone goes missing, think hospital and then think jail.

-You may or may not be allowed to have glasses. If you use reading glasses, assure the jail staff that they are prescription, and that you cannot function without them.

-You may or may not be “dressed out” in jail attire. One way or the other, expect to be cold. If you protest during the colder months, wear something loose and warm, that will be relatively comfortable, on a cement floor.

-Get plenty of sleep before you protest. You won’t get any in jail.

-If you are claustrophobic, come up with a plan to handle close, overcrowded quarters.

-Do not expect any recreation times in the beginning.

-Women: You can use Kotex pads to make your own eye coverings. This helps with the light torture. You can also use the stuffing to make ear plugs.

-If you have never been to jail, expect a cold delousing shower (if you are headed to population) and a humiliating body cavity search, in front of total strangers. A note on the body cavity search: Spreading ass cheeks and labia in front of an onlooker actually reveals nothing. Perhaps someone else can weigh in on this practice, but I am not even sure if it is regulation. It has been described as pure humiliation.

-At the protest site, and even in the jail, do not be surprised if you encounter pepper spray, tear gas or other harmful deterrents. Pepper spray causes nausea, vomiting, coughing, and even nosebleeds.

-If the handcuffs are too tight, mention it. Do not allow cuffing to lead to palsy.

I left these suggestions in a comment a while back, and worried that they would be viewed as over dramatic at the time. Now I think otherwise, but even if it is the former, better safe than sorry.

Finally, a shout out to our friends who stepped up to the plate peacefully: (((HUG))) We need many more like you guys!!

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